With six seniors, including key players Brittney Lyman (forward) and Hanna Berglund (goalkeeper) graduating, the Tigers see the spring season as a transition time to adjust to current personnel. While playing without the seniors the team has an opportunity to reform and experiment before the heat of competition next fall.
“The spring season is a time to work on things, and especially coming off a really successful fall season, it sets a really high standard,” said sophomore forward Rachel Herron.
After placing first in their conference and qualifying for the NCAA tournament, the Tigers historically accomplished one of their best seasons . With only five games in the spring season, they hope to improve upon their 0-1-1 record while grooming players for leadership in the fall.
“We’ve been experimenting with a few [formations] this spring because of the personnel who are graduating; we have some big shoes to fill in certain spots,” junior defender Kecia Morway said. “It’s a time we can experiment and hopefully we’ll find what works best for the fall.”
The Tigers fell to the Air Force in the first spring season game, and set out to readjust their formations. In their second game against CU Boulder, they started by playing a 4-3-3, with four backs. After going down a goal, the Tigers decided instead to try a 3-5-2 to push up the field in attack. The strategy worked as senior defender Katie Uyenishi scored the equalizer, and due to the successful pressure, CC looks to continue training in that formation.
“It’s supposed to help with numbers,” Uyenishi said. “One of the issues we’ve had is not getting enough people into the box when we have service, so with two forwards and five midfielders, we should have at least four people in the box at all times.”
Losing the dominating senior center midfielder Hannah Peterson leaves the team in need of more presence around the midfield, and in transition offense. A formation with five players in the middle leaves only three defenders, compared to the Tiger’s usual four, so the formation shift does have potential limitations and challenges on defense, particularly in transition.
The seasoned back line of Morway, Uyenishi, and Junior Sarah Haizlit (left to right) feels confident in the change.
“Geoff still wants Sarah and me to join the attack, but that just leaves us very vulnerable in the back. [If] someone loses it, we’re running back, but if we can keep the ball and get forward, that’s not an issue,” Morway said.
“If we’re spread out, we’re supposed to drop in. Maybe we’ll be exposed wide, but Sarah Haslett and Kecia Morway are good one v. one defenders, so if we can prevent service then I don’t think it will be an issue,” Uyenishi said.
Communication and coordination become especially important with any new formation. Midfielders will need to track runners back, and there will need to be constant, direct communication with the goalkeepers. Keepers will also need to play more aggressive, technical sweeping.
“We have to take on a different role where we play a lot higher on the field, so we are using our feet a lot more, cutting out a lot of the through balls instead of staying back on our line,” freshman goalkeeper Kate Scheele said “We’re going to be able to connect better with the back field. Before we worked in blocks, so now it’s more of a unit.”
Trust between the back line and goalkeepers will be crucial.
Beyond team development and bonding, the spring season also offers opportunity for players to develop individually. The team has more lifting sessions and coaches have more practice time to hone in on technical work.
“In the spring, coaches have more time to help individuals develop as players. We get the chance to work out the kinks,” sophomore Mary Bowman said.
“Spring season is definitely a lot more physically taxing because we work on a lot of fitness. I just want to become really technically strong and work on myself,” Seeley said.
The team will welcome three new freshmen for next year’s fall season: a midfielder, defender, and forward.
“I want them to come in and if they earn a spot, they earn a spot. There’s no separation between classes if you’re good enough to be on the field. Hopefully they can come in with that confidence,” Morway said.
Going into a new season and a new CUSA Conference, welcoming new teams and splitting into a West and East Divisions, the Tigers look to continue towards the conference and NCAA championship. Although the spring season is not as formal or competitive as the fall season, the team enjoys the low-pressure format as a way to gain playing experience and transition to individual training over the summer.
“I’ve been enjoying the sessions every day. It’s intense, it’s so competitive. It’s just been fun getting in, getting stuck in. We’ve been kicking each other for weeks, and it’s going to be fun to play together,” Uyenishi said.